Abby Mattson was recently named Miss Grand Forks. Photo by Chester Beltowski/The Dakota Student.
Determined, talented and joyful are a few words people have used to describe Abby Mattson — a UND sophomore who recently won the title of Miss Grand Forks.
The pageant took place at the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks on Nov. 30.
Mattson beat out seven other contestants for the crown. She received High Score Talent and People’s Choice awards against an additional seven ladies who competed for the Minnesota title of Miss Grand Cities.
Mattson has had little experience in pageants.
“I’ve only done two pageants,” Mattson said. Both of those were the Miss Grand Forks pageant.
She was encouraged to try out by her former voice teacher, Maria Williams Kennedy.
“I sang the National Anthem for the pageant two years ago, and my voice teacher thought it was something that I would enjoy,” Mattson said.
The Miss Grand Forks Scholarship Pageant is affiliated with the Miss America Organization, and contestants are between the ages of 17 and 24. The competition consists of five segments — interview, swimsuit and fitness, talent, evening wear and on-stage question.
Her first experience with the pageant last year turned out to be a success — she was awarded 2nd runner-up and Miss Congeniality — but Mattson had higher goals for this year.
“Ever since last year, I kept thinking, ‘I want to do it and win,’ so it was always in the back of my mind the entire year — getting ready, talent and everything,” she said.
Mattson did not have a coach, but took advantage of any opportunity to improve by receiving tips from past title winners.
As far as preparing for the pageant, Mattson said she spent a great deal of time on her talent, which was a piano performance of “Soaring” by Schumann. The hard work earned her the award of High Score Talent.
“I was really honored to win best talent, because that’s my favorite area of competition,” Mattson said. It also was an honor because Mattson’s performance related to her pageant platform of arts advocacy.
“What’s special about the Miss America Organization is that you get to pick a platform, which is basically a charity or topic of your choice, and that is the framework of how you volunteer throughout the year,” she said.
In addition to choosing a platform, all contestants were required to raise $100 for the Children’s Miracle Network in order to compete in the pageant. Mattson will now raise $250 more in her preparation for the Miss North Dakota pageant in Williston next June.
Mattson says fundraising and other future duties are what excite her the most about her title.
“The minute I was crowned, I thought, this is just the beginning,” she said.
Mattson will have opportunities to perform locally, such as singing the national anthem for UND events. She also will be going on a school tour soon to promote her arts advocacy platform.
“I love the people, and I’ve lived here my whole life, so I feel that I know how to serve them well, and I’m ready for the job,” she said.
All of this hard work may seem like a chore to the average person, but Mattson doesn’t see it that way. Her close friend and UND sophomore Malia Grosz recognizes this.
“She knows what she wants, and she follows through with it. She doesn’t let obstacles stand in her way,” Grosz said.
Grosz also has noticed personal growth in Abby since she started the pageants.
“Abby has figured out more of her future and how she wants to be a spokesperson for what she believes in, especially with her faith,” Grosz said. “She is a very strong Christian, so I think Abby has found her voice through the pageant.”
When it comes to what Mattson has learned during her pageant experience, she can recite a few lessons.
“I’ve learned the importance of being true to who you are, and in order to do that you need to find out who you are,” she said. “As I’ve developed this platform and realized that I really do have a passion for being an advocate for the arts here in town. I’ve realized that I really want to be a role model for other girls. That starts with me being confident in who I am.”
Although confidence is an important skill Mattson has improved through her pageant experience, it is actually the skill that got her involved in the first place. Her former voice teacher Maria Williams Kennedy says she encouraged Abby to try out.
“I saw Abby with a very deep-rooted sense of confidence and sense of self that probably comes from her faith.”
Williams Kennedy summed up Abby perfectly in one word: joy.
“She is a joy to teach, a joy as a human being, she always wants to give to people, she is a very kind and loving person and always puts others in front of herself,” she said. “For someone with as much talent as she has, she is a very humble person as well.”
Emmy Erbes is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected]